Joos van Cleve stages this scene as a lesson for a ‘Good Death’, presupposed by the means of grace in the Christian Church. As one of the eminent families in Cologne, the Hackeneys were donors of the Renaissance rood screen in St Maria im Kapitol (1523), in front of which this retable was placed. It is known that Nicasius Hackeney (d. 1518) had already died, and presumably also his brother Georg (d. before 1524), before it was made. Behind the donors and their wives stand each of their patron saints. St Gudula with the lantern represents Nicasius’ first wife, Guetgin van Merle, who died during the Plague of 1502. A smaller version of the altarpiece can be found in the Wallraf-Richartz Museum in Cologne.